Paris has some of the finest art galleries and museums in the World, as well as a number of iconic monuments and typically Parisian activities. Many of these are the very reason why people visit the French capital. As with visiting more than a few museums and monuments in any city, the price of entry tickets soon starts adding up. To help keep the cost of visiting Paris down, there are two passes available that I recommend. In this post I offer advice and suggestions to help you decide which one to buy: the Paris Pass or the Paris Museum Pass?
Information in this article was last updated on 28 October 2019
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Both passes are designed to reduce the costs of visiting a number of attractions in a short time period. Buy the wrong one or, even worse, use them incorrectly and you might not save much or even end up wasting your money entirely. In this post I take you step by step through each of the two passes, outlining what they are, their differences and offer tips on which of the two to buy and how to make the most of your purchase and get good value for money. Read the post as set out, or use the following links to jump to the section you want to read. All prices and calculations used to illustrate savings are correct as of April 2018.
1. What is the Paris Museum Pass?
As the holder of a Paris Museum Pass (pictured here) you get unlimited, free access to over 60 of the more popular museums and monuments in and around the city (See the Full List). Although there are some places you may never have heard of, the scheme does include all the popular museums and galleries most visitors want to visit. So by purchasing the pass you will become aware of the range of interesting places on offer to tourists. One of the often cited advantages is the ability to jump the queues. While this is certainly true, it does not apply to queues for security checks. Also note, entry is covered for permanent exhibitions only, not to temporary or special exhibitions where there almost always is an added entry fee. If, however, entry to these special exhibitions is included in a standard ticket, then your pass will cover entry to these.
There is no set date when you buy a pass, you activate it by writing your name and date on it. Be careful not to make a mistake, as any errors or overwriting will void the card. All is clear in the following video presentation:
Is the Paris Museum Pass Worth Buying?
The options available are two, four or six days, for which the costs are €53, €67 and €79 respectively (as of April 2018).
To work out whether the Paris Museum Pass is worth the money, the following list shows what it costs (as of April 2018) for one adult to get in to ten of the most popular attractions, all of which are covered by the pass:
While this may not be everyone’s choice of top attractions, it does give you a good idea of the kind of savings that can be made. Remember, there are over 60 museums and monuments on the list. You would have to consider the opening hours and the location of each to get an idea of how many you could visit in a day.
What is clear from the list above, for the Paris Museum Pass to be worth the money you spend, you do need to visit a number of museums – not many of them, but certainly more than two or three. Visit four of the main ones in two days and you will have covered your costs. Crucially, however, I would say you actually need to want to visit those museums. If you are simply going down the list just so that you recover the initial cost, chances are you will surely have a miserable time. If sitting in a street café and watching the World go by, or walking in the many lovely parks and gardens is more your idea of a Parisian break, you are better off paying for entry to the one or two museums you choose to visit and get out and enjoy the city and its wonderful spaces.
My advice then, is to look at the list carefully, and work out if in two, four or six days you realistically can/want to visit the number of museums you will need to in order to recoup your initial outlay. Remember too, the pass allows unlimited access – so you can go in an out as often as you choose.
A note for Mums and Dads to bear in mind: entry to all museums and cultural attractions (nationwide) is free for all children under 18, and free for all EU citizens under 26 (proof of identity will be required).
2. What is the Paris Pass?
This pass offers its holders a much more comprehensive sightseeing experience for anyone visiting Paris. It is not just another brand of museum pass. In fact, it includes the museum pass described above, a travel card and a Paris Attraction card (pictured here). Available for two, three, four or six days, there are different prices for children (2-day €44), teenagers (2-day €81) and adults (2-day €131).
Included in this package is the following:
Throughout the year there are also other special offers, these include discounts and special offers at reputable and popular shops, department stores (Galleries Lafayette) and restaurants (Hard Rock Café).
Is the Paris Pass Worth Buying?
The Paris Pass is noticeably more expensive than the Paris Museum Pass, but that is because it not only includes the museum pass there is also so much more to it. As a result, there are also passes for children (4-11 year olds) and teenagers (12-17 year olds, 18 year olds and over are adults).
As of April 2018, a two-day Paris Pass for a child costs €44.00, a teen €81.00 and an adult €131.00; the three different three-day passes cost €50.00 €100.00 and €165.00; the four-day passes cost €57.00, €109.00 and €196.00; while the six day passes costs €75.00 for children, €135.00 for teenagers and €244.00 for adults. Good to know: Paris Pass frequently have special offers and discounts, so the prices are often cheaper than these.
To work out if the this pass is worth the cost, consider the following list of popular attractions and activities. They could easily be seen in two days. These are the prices for a single adult, as of April 2018:
Plus, to travel around the city to get these sights, the Metro travel card for two days will set you back €21.50 (zones 1 to 3)
TOTAL: €175.50 saving a minimum of €44.50 for one adult on a 2-day Paris Pass at full price. Remember, there are often discounts so your saving can be greater than in this illustration.
As with the points I made for the Paris Museum Pass, it is easy to work out on paper what attractions and activities need to be ticked off to cover the cost. You also need to consider if what is on offer is what you would really want to do while you are in Paris anyway.
Also, if you prefer walking to taking public transport, having the travel card might not be worth that much to you. The travel card only covers zones 1 to 3, that is central Paris, although this does cover a large area. It does not however cover travel to the museums and monuments beyond the city centre, such as the Palace of Versailles, and at least 20 other attractions. Single metro tickets cost €1.90, or €14,50 for ten (correct as of April 2018 for details of ticket options, see the RATP website). But, it is worth noting that the transport system runs from 05:20 until 01:20 each day.
3. The Convenience of a Pass
Understandably, particularly for budget travellers or families on holiday, when we think about museums passes and other such schemes, it is often with saving money in mind. Travelling can be an expensive past time. And for a city like Paris, where here are many wonderful museums and monuments people come to see, entry fees soon start adding up.
But both of these passes are not just for people who need to watch their spending. They also have a significant convenience value:
Either of the six-day passes are good value for money, even if you take your time while enjoying the highlights they include.
4. What is the Difference Between the Paris Pass & the Paris Museum Pass?
The difference between the Paris Museum Pass and the Paris Pass is actually very simple. The Paris Pass is made up of three parts. The first, as outlined in section one above, is the Paris Museum Pass. The second is a Metro travel card, that gets you unlimited travel on public transport (RER, Metro and Bus, zones 1-3 only). These two can be bought separately.
The third part of the Paris Pass is what is called the Paris Attraction Card, this gets you entry to the seven attractions and on to the sightseeing bus, as well as a number of special offers at selected restaurants and shops. This third component is unique to the Paris Pass, and can not be purchased separately
5. Which Pass to Buy?
Given the difference between the two passes is so basic, it is therefore quite easy to decide which pass to buy. No Pass, anywhere, is suited for every visitor to that destination. And the same is true for Paris. People frequently ask “is the Paris Pass legit?”, or “is it worth the money?” The answer is yes, the Paris passes do provide a way to save money while travelling; but perhaps not for everyone. For the business traveller who is spending a few days in Paris, and only gets the opportunity to visit one or two museums, the Paris Pass is definitely not worth it, and neither is the Paris Museum Pass.
The Paris Museum Pass is only for museums and monuments, the Paris Pass adds a travel card and entry to other popular attractions. If saving money is a main concern, then the only question you need to ask yourself is this: can you and, more importantly, do you want to spend the two, four or six consecutive days, visiting the number of museums and attractions you will need to in order to cover your initial cost. Everyone has a different saturation level.
6. Children, Under 26s and the Passes
As of 2009, any citizen of the European Union under the age of 26 is entitled to free entry to all museums and cultural attractions. And most institutions are good in adhering to this. All children under the age of 18 are given free entry to museums, whatever their nationality. A good tip here is never to assume anything, and always have proof of identity that will be required to gain admission for free.
This is why an EU citizen under the age of 26 or any child under the age of 18 does not require a Paris Museum Pass. There is a fee for children and teenagers for the Paris Pass because that entitles these individuals to transport and entry to attractions that are not normally free of charge.
7. Tips for Using the Paris Passes
The following tips for using the Paris Pass and the Paris Museum Pass will ensure you get value for your money.
If you are strapped for cash but do want to see many of the museums and monuments included in the scheme, then choose two days as ‘museum days and see as much as you can in those days (keeping in mind the following tips about opening hours, etc.).
Your pass is activated when you first use it. It is then valid for the number of days for which you have purchased. If you buy a four-day pass and you first use it on Monday, it ceases to provide you the stated benefits at midnight four days later, ie Thursday.
Consequently, you do not want to first use your pass half-way through, or later, your first day – you will have lost time on it.
If you can, choose consecutive days that will include days on which your museums of choice are open late. For example, the Louvre is open until 9.45 pm on Wednesday and Fridays, normally it shuts at 6 pm.
Also, believe it or not, many of the Parisian museums and monuments are shamefully closed one day a week – even during the peak tourist season. The Louvre and the Musée de Cluny (the Medieval Museum), for example, are closed on Tuesdays, whereas the Musée Rodin and the Musée d’Orsay are closed on Mondays. But, on the plus side, most museums are free on the first Sunday of each month.
Just as you should consider opening hours in your planning, don’t forget to take into account where the attractions you want to visit are. There are a number of museums and monuments that are all quite central, and within walking distance of each other, or a quick metro ride. Some are further out, such as the castles of Versailles and Fontainebleau, and the National Archaeology Museum, and these require the better part of a day to visit.
Who should consider a pass?
Who should skip the passes?
8. Where to Buy the Passes?
The Paris Museum Pass is available almost anywhere and everywhere, from the Airports to the tourist offices, from the many iconic Parisian street kiosks to souvenir shops and certain stores. They can also be bought at many of the museums and monuments.
Alternatively, you can buy the 2-day, 4-day or 6-day Paris Museum Pass online here.
Buying the Paris Pass online also makes good sense. From the feedback I have had from followers of the Archaeology Travel Facebook page, the postage is not only very reasonable, but it is also reliable. Once purchased online, you can have them delivered to your accommodation in Paris, your home before you travel, or you can opt to pick them up from the collection office.